Why are there so
many languages
in the world?
Richard McGinn
Linguistics Department
Why are there so many languages in the world?
Two-part answer:
1. ??
2. ??
Why are there so many languages in the world?
Two-part answer:
1. PEOPLE MOVE
2. ??
Why are there so many languages in the world?
Two-part answer:
2. LANGUAGES CHANGE
People Move: Diamond-Bellwood
Hypothesis
Link is here. Jared Diamond and Peter
Bellwood team up to provide an interdisciplinary
hypothesis concerning the history of human
migrations and the major reasons peoples,
cultures and especially technologies can differ
so dramatically. Their data draws on findings in
linguistics, archeology, agriculture and animal
husbandry.
FIVE HUMAN
MIGRATIONS
OUT OF AFRICA
Earliest Migrations 100 K – 40 K bp
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (2000)
Migrations To 10 K bp
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (2000)
Farmers / Fishermen in SEA
and the Pacific: 6000 – 1000 bp
Proto-Sapiens
Merritt Ruhlen 1994
Why are there so many languages in the world?
2. Languages Change
Theory of Divergence
(Crowley, p. 23 & pp. 226-238)
1. Languages change
systematically.
2. Barriers reduce the density of
intercommunication.
3. The changes are statistically
independent.
In 1786 Sir William Jones announced to
the Asiatick Society of Calcutta that
Sanskrit was related to Greek and Latin,
touching off what would come to be known
as the Neogrammarian movement away
from philology (the comparison of written
texts) to what we now consider linguistics
(the study of spoken languages). If you
lived in 1786, and you were presented with
a large number of cognates like the
following, you would likely also conclude
that all these languages must be related.
Some Indo-European Languages
Sanskrit Avestan
pita
padam
bhratar
bharami barami
jivah
jivo
sanah
virah
hano
viro
tryah
daśa
śatam
satem
Greek
pater
poda
phrater
phero
Latin Gothic
English
pater fadar
father
pedem fotu
foot
frater brothar brother
fero
baira
bear
wiwos qius
quick
‘living'
henee senex sinista senile
wir
wair
were(-wolf)
'man'
tris
tres
thri
three
deka
decem taihun
ten
-katon centum hund(rath) hund(red)
TWO CLASSIFICATION
PROBLEMS
(Handouts)
Quote of the day:
“Most historical linguists have no
appreciation of the difference
between classification and
reconstruction.”
-- Merrit Ruhlen, The Origin of Language
(1994:127)
Two Fundamental Principles
of Historical Linguistics
Fundamental Principles
1. Arbitrariness of the sign
2. Regularity of sound change
Two Fundamental Principles
1. Arbitrariness of the sign underlies
linguistic classification.
2. Regularity of sound change
underlies reconstruction of
protolanguages.
Any regular correspondences?
(5 minutes small discussion groups)
Sanskrit Avestan
pita
padam
bhratar
bharami barami
jivah
jivo
sanah
virah
hano
viro
tryah
daśa
śatam
satem
Greek
pater
poda
phrater
phero
Latin Gothic
English
pater fadar
father
pedem fotu
foot
frater brothar brother
fero
baira
bear
wiwos qius
quick
‘living'
henee senex sinista senile
wir
wair
were(-wolf)
'man'
tris
tres
thri
three
deka
decem taihun
ten
-katon centum hund(rath) hund(red)
YOU HAVE DISCOVERED
ASPECTS OF GRIMM’S LAW
http://wwwpersonal.umich.edu/~clunis/wow/grimm/rev
erse-frames.html
Do the principles of sound
change and reconstruction
only apply to European
languages?
A good question once, now fully settled based on
200 years of research on the world’s languages.
King of Amerian Structuralism
One of Bloomfield’s (1925:130) many significant
accomplishments was his successful application of
the Regularity Hypothesis in the reconstruction of
Proto-Algonquin, to “dispose of the notion that the
usual processes of linguistic change were
suspended on the American continent.”
-- Robert W. Murray, The place of historical linguistics in the age of structuralism.
In Sylvain Auroux, ed. (2000). History of the language sciences, Chapter XXXVII,
p. 2437.
Revised Theory of Divergence
(Crowley, p. 23 & pp. 226-238)
1. Language change is regular.
2. Barriers reduce the density of
intercommunication.
3. The changes are statistically
independent.
OUT OF TAIWAN: THE
AUSTRONESIAN
DIASPORA
Farmers / Fishermen in SEA
and the Pacific: 6000 – 1000 bp
Common Words in Six Austronesian Languages
EnglRukai Tagalog Bidayŭh Rejang Samoan Malagasy
Rawas
Twodosa da-lawa duə
duə
lua
Foursəpatə apat
umpᴧt pat
fi
Five lima lima
rimə
ləmaw lima
Six ənəm anim
inəm
num
ono
Bird (n.c. manok manuk monoʔ manu n.d.
Louse
koco
kuto
gutu
gutəw
Eye maca mata
matə
matəy mata
Ear caliŋa taliŋa
(kapiŋ) (tiʔuʔ) taliŋa
Liver
axay
atay
ati
atuy
Road
dalan
daʔan
jᴧrᴧn
dalən
Coconut
abarə
niyog
(buntᴧn) niol
Rainodalə ulan
ujᴧn
ujən
ua
Sky n.c. laŋit
raŋit
läŋät laŋi
Stone
n.c. bato
batuh
butəw
Eat kane kaʔin
maʔan kaʔən ʔai
rua
əfatra
dimi
ëninä
gutu
maso
tadini
ate
ala
niu
hao
ati
n.d.
n.d.
uranä
laniträ
fatu `fruit pit‘ vato
hanä
Why Reconstruction Is Necessary
Number of
differences
Rejang
Malay
PMP
English
mata
tali
ulur
air
ari
*mata
*tali
*hulur
*wahiR
*waRi
eye
rope
to lower
water
day
(Musi dialect)
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
matəy
tiləy
oloa
bioa
biləy
ESTIMATED DATES OF MIGRATIONS
Based on archeological record (Peter Bellwood)









So. China  Taiwan
 No. Philippines
 So. Philippines
 Borneo, Sulawesi, Moluccas
 Micronesia, Coastal New Guinea
 Timor, Flores (Eastern Indonesia)
 Malaya, Sumatra, Java, Vietnam
 Hawaii, Madagascar
 New Zealand
6000 bp
5000 bp
4000 bp
3500 bp
3500 bp
3000 bp
2500 bp
1500 bp
1000 bp
RECONSTRUCTING
GREATER TIME DEPTH
REQUIRES A
DIFFERENT METHOD
AS EXPLAINED IN THE
FILM “In search of the
first language”
LING 485/585
WINTER 2010
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Why are there so many languages in the